The recent performance of the Roxey Ballet, “Winter Works…to Warm the Soul”, held at the Canal Studios in Lambertville, could almost have borne the subtitle “A Roxey/Jarboe Retrospective”. Reviving works from the 17-year collaboration between Mark Roxey and Richard Jarboe, interspersed with monologues and songs from the poet/playwright/songwriter, the repertory presented was eclectic, original, and demanded a willingness from the audience to dispel any preconceived notions about what to expect at a ballet performance. The rewards for doing so, however, were well worth it.
The first idea that had to go was that of distance between the audience and performers. Only inches separated the first row of folding chairs from the dance space, and those in the back were not much farther away. In this intimate setting the “big picture” was sometimes lost, but the excitement of being so close to the action had its own rewards, and left no doubt as to the intense physicality involved in the “effortless” movements one typically associates with ballet. The first piece, “A Perfect Thorn”, an amusing number for four women and a rose, was a good introduction to this spatial situation, and was also the only dance in the program not choreographed by Mark Roxey.
The next inner shift in gears came when Richard Jarboe set up his chair in the middle of the dance floor, donned a knit cap and sunglasses, strummed his guitar, and began a monologue about Herman Melville and Moby Dick. This set the stage for what was to come – “La Baliene Blanche” (the White Whale) – the very first of the Roxey/Jarboe collaborations, premiered in 1996. If the opening piece on the program was light, this was definitely dark. A fog machine, black leotards, a stark electronic soundtrack, (created by Jarboe and including snippets of his monologue), all helped portray the desolation that results when groups of people blindly follow a despotic leader. A highlight of the choreography was the addition of trainees from the Mill Ballet School, who definitely held their own alongside the company.
No sooner did the undulating white whale leave the stage than the scene became a boxing ring. Premiered in 2012 for the Roxey fundraising event Fighting for the Arts, “Tempered Steele” was the only pas de deux of the evening. And what an amazing number it was. Danced by Sergio Alvarez and Hyung Ji Yu (supported by Shawn Rawls as the referee), the couple donned real boxing gloves and began fighting for their relationship. Eventually the gloves were abandoned, giving them a chance to really dance, and they were spectacular, both technically and emotionally. The love/hate tension was tangible, and the exhaustion real. This piece alone was worth the price of admission.
Moving away from the conflict of the first half, the second half was dedicated to symmetry and love, with “Symmetric” (1999) and “Love Rain Over Me” (2012). The first choreography demonstrated the company’s precision, the second its lyricism (again with the addition of the trainees). Richard Jarboe acted as emcee, presenting a short story or song before each number, giving the dancers a chance to catch their breath and change costumes (credit on costume design goes to Alicia Worden). And so the second half flew by, demonstrating once again that an evening with the Roxey Ballet is an evening well spent.
Playwright hopes 'Gray Fat' has weight at Fringe Festival
By Rich Freedman/Vallejo Times Herald Posted: 09/07/2012 01:03:50 AM PDT
East Coast playwright Richard Jarboe has been doing his poetry thing for 40 years. Maybe five, six years ago, he thought he would add some music, tell some stories, and deliver an ever-evolving one man show. "The Danger of Gray Fat."
And if Jarboe decides to add something, maybe shelve a thought or two. No big deal. "I look at them like clay pigeons shout out of the sky," he said. "So be it. Most of what I write is not personal. It's about issues and things like that."
Basically, even those who have caught Jarboe's "Gray Fat" at the San Francisco Fringe Festival, could see a different approach on a return visit. Of course, with the frenetic mind of the Virginia native, a patron may not even know what he or she just witnessed.
He is, after all, exploring the dangers of the human mind through wit, satire and "a bit of horror around the edges."
Jarboe, a former Berkeley resident, hasn't been in the Bay Area for 30 years. Performing here now "is a wonderful opportunity,"he said.
And his performances? Admission is a mere $3 at the door or $4.99 online.
Jarboe may be many things. Greedy apparently isn't one of them.
"I'm obviously not coming out to make money," he said. "What I'm hoping to do is give the show a little more legitimate look and see what it does."
Jarboe said his requirements are minimal.
"What I need is a chair," he said.
And he'll play guitar. Recite poetry. Voice his concern for variousunpleasant acts of mankind.
"I'm not going to be shooting guns or throwing pies," he said. "I'll do some mental gymnastics, a little bit of music, and see if it flies, see if it works. I'm feeling it will. People here are reasonably intelligent. Hopefully they'll be tickled by the comedy and some irony with a little bit of tragedy."
If nothing else, Jarboe said he never tires of the show, what with the endless parade of human foibles.
"I can do it forever," he said.
What Jarboe finds disconcerting these days is a child's imagination. Or lack thereof, lamenting about every child's obsession with staring down an electronic gadget.
"It used to be when we were kids, you'd play cowboys and Indians or pirates," Jarboe said. "Now, if they want to use imagination, kids turn to a computer which already provides the plot. All children are really doing is pushing buttons."
Jarboe is often called upon to write ballet scores or other musical projects with youth. "And I realize these kids have no imagination," he said. "And these are kids Jarboe is who were interested enough to sign up for the class." He is ready to accept whatever "Gray Fat" brings him during his Fringe run that ends Sept. 16.
Hey, this is a guy who "was almost killed probably 20 times."
Jarboe was hit by lightning twice, nearly drowned, and almost blown up. He and his school teacher wife have raised their kids -- now 17, 20 and 25 -- to be fearless.
"I tell them some of the things I did in my youth and they laugh," Jarboe said.
If you go
When: Saturday, Monday and
Where: San Francisco Fringe Festival, EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy St.
Tickets: $4.99 advance, $3 door if available
Info: (415) 673-387, sffringe.org?